The former PM said Proton has always been labelled as a maker of cheap cars. “Now Proton wants to produce cars which are of world standard, but you have to pay a higher price. You can’t have a good car and pay a bad car price,” he told reporters.
He said that when the Proton Preve and Suprima S were introduced, people claimed they were too highly-priced for a Proton. “The next car of the same quality is RM120,000. You (consumers) want to have cheap cars, OK, Proton can produce cheap cars.
“Proton has to make a living. If consumers want cheap cars Proton will make cheap cars, they run three miles and break down.”
Responding to a question if Proton has approached the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and Petronas for any funds, Mahathir said it had never asked for funding.
Asked if he himself as Proton chairman would approach either for funding, Mahathir replied: “No way, because Proton is a private company now and it is able to make progress in research and development.”
Mahathir also said the government was now encouraging importation of cars rather than encouraging local industries. “When you import cars, money flows out and you don’t get any technology from them,” he said.
Asked if Proton needs government help, he said former South Korean President Park Chung Hee, during his tenure, called up 12 individuals and told them they must go into industry, with him providing the loans and funds.
These companies, like Hyundai, LG and Daewoo, were private companies and their government fully helped them, and because of that today they do not need government help anymore, he added.